A Readability Analysis of Online Cardiovascular Disease-Related Health Education Materials

Varun Ayyaswami, Divya Padmanabhan, Manthan Patel, Arpan Vaikunth Prabhu, David R. Hansberry, Nitin Agarwal, Jared W. Magnani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: Online cardiovascular health materials are easily accessible with an Internet connection, but the readability of its content may limit practical use by patients. Objective: The goal of our study was to assess the readability of the most commonly searched Internet health education materials for cardiovascular diseases accessed via Google. Methods: We selected 20 commonly searched cardiovascular disease terms: aneurysm, angina, atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, deep vein thrombosis, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, pericardial disease, peripheral arterial disease, rheumatic heart disease, stroke, sudden death, valvular heart disease, mini-stroke, lower extremity edema, pulmonary embolism, and exertional dyspnea. Terms were selected on Google and selected up to 10 results in order of presentation in the search results by reviewing a maximum of 15 pages of Google search results specifically providing education toward patients to yield 196 total patient education articles. Key Results: All readability measures assessing grade level measures found the 196 articles were written at a mean 10.9 (SD = 1.8) grade reading level. Moreover, 99.5% of the articles were written beyond the 5th- to 6th-grade level recommended by the American Medical Association. Conclusions: Given the prominent use of online patient education material, we consider readability as a quality metric that should be evaluated prior to online publication of any health education materials. Further study of how to improve the readability of online materials may enhance patient education, engagement, and health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e74-e80
JournalHealth literacy research and practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


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